A simple romantic dinner, perfectly cooked scallops bedded in creamy polenta and topped with racy spoonsful of chimichurri.
My first blue ribbons at the local county fair came in grade three – not for hearty homemade bread, not for a flaky, tender pie crust, pie, not for a perfect garden tomato, not for a knitting project, not for sewing a simple apron, not for raising a calf or a lamb.
No, those first ribbons were for two collections of Gulf-Coast seashells, one of miniature shells with an angel wing an inch long, a coquina the size of an ant, a tiny red crab as small as a child's fingernail. Now both collect dust (ha, irony there, eh?) on a basement shelf: there’s no throwing them away, there’s no living with them either.
Even in the 1960s, scallop shells were some rare, especially the flat bottom halves, I think we called them ‘fan shells’? These days, scallops (the seashells) seem somehow old-fashioned and arcane, where scallops (the meaty mollusks) are the modern delight of dieters and gourmands alike.
This is my favorite way to cook scallops, easy enough for a romantic weeknight dinner and impressive enough for a weekend dinner party. The outer edges are crispy, the centers creamy and warm. Rarely does a protein taste so rich for so few calories.
SEARED SCALLOPS with
GARLICKY POLENTA and
Time to table: 20 minutes (not including the chimichurri)
Serves 2, easily multiplied
- CHIMICHURRI, my recipe for Chimichurri, preferably made 24 hours before serving
- 1/2 pound large scallops
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 clove garlic, sliced small
- 4 tablespoons polenta (see TIPS)
- 1 ounce feta cheese
SCALLOP PREP Arrange the scallops on a double layer of paper towels, pat dry, then season both sides with salt and pepper. Leave the scallops on the towels to come to room temperature for about 10 minutes. (Make the polenta while the scallops rest. There’s plenty of time to dress some salad greens too.)
GARLICKY POLENTA In a saucepan, bring the water, salt and garlic to a boil on medium high. Stirring continuously, slowly pour the polenta into the boiling water. Let the polenta cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Remove from the heat, stir in the feta cheese until it melts. Set aside but keep warm.
SEARED SCALLOPS Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (see TIPS) on medium high, add the scallops flat-side down and let cook, without moving so that the bottom side will sear, for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Add the butter, then turn the scallops over with tongs and cook for another minute. While they cook, tilt the skillet to pool the butter, spoon it over the scallops. The scallops are done when their centers are opaque.
TO SERVE If needed, rewarm the polenta and spoon onto warm plates. Arrange the scallops on the plates, then dot with chimichurri sauce.
Garlicky Polenta Only, Per Serving: 112 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 12mg Cholesterol; 456mg Sodium; 17g Carb; 1g Fiber; 1g Sugar; 4g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 2.5, PointsPlus 3
This is the miniature shell collection from the third grade. The shells are remarkably tiny, only a half-inch to three-quarters inch big. All the shells are in good shape, the horseshoe crab (the large beige creature with the tail), not so much. All these shells were collected by my grandmother and me on the Gulf Coast of Florida near Bonita Springs in the mid 1960s. Canadians, you'll laugh: the collection is housed in what appears to be a scarf-size Christmas gift box from Eaton's.
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